#MicroblogMondays – Things I am not

Ah, another family centered holiday. This Easter, I am trying to focus on the true reason for the season – and the Hope it promises. I am not doing very well at it.

I have had so many great plans for my life, waylaid by my plans to have a family – and now none of those things have come true and I feel completely lost. I am trying to focus on saying good bye to things I am not, and focusing on the things that I am. If any of those things from the “not” side are able to come over to the “am” side, then I’ll be happy as a peach – but right now, they’re not on the am side and I need to make peace with that.

I’m not the perfect homemaker, with a PhD, who has stayed in touch with every friend from every stage, is a published author and a practicing musician and who is confident and secure in a small town, mothering the hell out of her darling offspring.

Instead… I am a dedicated and hard worker, a fiercely passionate violinist, a loving and loyal Wife and Aunt, a friend to many from all walks and stages of life…a woman who is strong and independent and is a slightly over the top superb fur-mama.

It’s not at all who I thought I would be at 30. Not at all who I wanted to be…but here I am, imperfect and lost…just trying to find my way.

Tell me you’ve all felt this way, too?? And that it gets better?

*Click here to find out more about #MicroblogMondays, and how you can participate too.*

 

 

 

Bell, Let’s Talk

In Canada, it is Bell Let’s Talk day. That’s a day when a popular cellphone, phone line, internet and TV provider donates a large portion of their proceeds from texts sent to mental health initiatives.

For the weeks prior, there are commercials and ads connecting Mental Health issues with real people – in an effort to spread awareness and end the stigma. Howie Mandel (and his public battle with OCD) is the poster child for this campaign.

It’s also one that’s near and dear to my heart for a similar reason.


I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Not the kind that people claim to have because they like their socks arranged by colour or they arrange their books in alphabetical order. No, I have the real kind – the one that ruins lives if untreated, holds me back from my dreams, causes isolation and depression. The real, serious, mental disease kind.

I have had symptoms since I was a small child. At the time, they were labeled as quirky. I was always high functioning (excellent grades in school), so it wasn’t considered a problem. As I aged, the symptoms got worse and evolved. Finally, when I was in my third year of University, the stress of life intensified my symptoms so much that I could barely leave my apartment. In desperation, I tried to commit suicide…and I would have succeeded had my roommate not come back to grab a book she forgot. That experience will forever be the worst, and the best, of my life. I caused great pain to my roommate, and myself, and I will forever regret that – but it also saved my life. I spent the next month in a mental health unit in Hospital, where I worked hard to dig myself up from the pit I was in.

I completed an outpatient program for depression, and passed it with flying colours. I was proclaimed cured, and returned to school to finish my degree.

What I didn’t realize was that, those little nigglings of something that I attributed to depression, were actually something more. At first, it was an itch that I couldn’t scratch if the door was partially open, or the curtains were and the only thing that scratched it was closing them. Then it evolved into a need for cleanliness, and a need to pray for each person I loved at night. Then it evolved into an inability to function if I do not clean a “dirty item” and the surfaces it has touched and a need to pray for each person by name, or else they would not be safe overnight. From there, it became something horrifying larger: a need to clean a dirty item, the surface its touched, and the surfaces that have touched the surfaces that have touched the dirty item. An anxiety filled prayer including everyone I love by name, picturing them and surrounding them with white light for exactly the right amount of time or something horrible will happen to them. A fear of illness and vomiting, so severe, that I would chose death over exposure. A need to check the door one, two, three, four, five times to make sure it is locked, even though I have already checked. A need to wash my hands so often that they are raw and bleeding, and still unable to stop washing them. A fear that if I think of something bad for too long or too short, it will happen and then the panic that ensues when I realize it has not met those time requirements. The constant foreboding that something awful will happen because I did not check the door five times, or count to 20 while running water. A fear of contamination so severe that it is impossible to visit someone else, or even leave my house.

Not surprising, in that time, my life became a bubble of fear in hiding, constantly trying to dodge the next thing. I couldn’t function, I couldn’t leave the house and I realized that I couldn’t live like that.

Unlike the first time my symptoms became so heavy, I chose to get help. I went to my doctor and explained everything, preceding it with “I know how insane this sounds, but…”.

She listened, she nodded, she typed some things, and then she gave me a hug and a list of websites. She told me to go to them, and read through them, and in the mean time she was sending a prescription to the pharmacy, a referral to a Psychiatrist and she wanted me to call her if I needed anything at all.

When I checked the first website, I thought I typed it in wrong. I didn’t have OCD – that was something that people who shuffle around in bathrobes, with baggies on their hands, have. Not me – I had an education, a good career, a house, a husband, a family… BUT I clicked on over to “Symptoms” anyway, and I could not believe my eyes when I saw what I saw. Every single symptom, every single experience, every single thing that was happening to me that I deemed insanity was there. Every. single. one. It changed my life.

For the first time in years I felt relieved. There was a reason for these symptoms, and if there was a reason – then there was a treatment. The change in my feelings, in my mind, was so profound that it is one of the most memorable moments of my life. I can still feel the relief, the giddiness wash over. I had a chance, like could be OK again, there was hope for me.

Since then it has been a roller coaster. OCD is something that will never go away. I will always have it, and I will always struggle with it. It responds directly to the other stressors in my life so as long as I am calm, I can keep a handle on it – but the second that something stressful and out of my control happens, it’s there barging into my brain and ready to take over.

I am not OCD, but it will always be a part of me. Most of the time, now, I am OK with that. I have made my peace with it, and I am in a good place right now – but other times, I am angry and sad and frustrated. I am constantly working on not being ashamed of this, but it is hard.

The point of this big, long, wordy post (if you’re still with me, thank you!!) – is to say three things to you:

  1. You are not alone. You may feel alone, and it may seem like you are alone. But just look at my symptoms up there and how illogical they were – I was positive no one else was experiencing them – but I did some research and was amazed to see that they were. Not just one or two – but thousands of people were. Reach out, find someome who gets it. Don’t ever suffer silently. Ever.
  2. Get help. I know it hurts to ask for help. I know how shameful it feels, I know how poorly some people understand it. I know. But if you don’t get help, it could kill you – and let me tell you, there are people out there who will be shattered by the loss of you. Not just family and friends, but the first responders who find you, and the neighbor across the hall and your coworkers. If you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for them. Get help.
  3. Be kind – to yourself, and to others. Mental illness is real, debilitating, and life crushing. Don’t make someone feel smaller than they already feel because you do not understand. Trust me, if I could chose something else I absolutely would. It would be easier to be diabetic than have OCD – but those are not the cards I was dealt. Don’t belittle yourself for something you can’t control, and don’t belittle someone else for it. We are all just doing the best we can, with what we have, battling something no one else can understand. Be kind.

Thanks for reading! I hope you didn’t fall asleep and, more importantly, I hope it help you on some level…whether to deal with mental illness in yourself, or in someone else.

P.S: I think this is the longest post I have EVER blogged. #longestpostaward

We’re Sorry, Too.

I know it’s a running joke that Canadians apologize for everything – but for my American friends: I am so very sorry.

I’m sorry that you’re afraid right now – afraid for yourself, or your friends, who are not white, male and straight. I am sorry that you’re worried his hate will spread. I am sorry that you’re devastated to have to explain this to your children. I am sorry that such a beautiful, powerful, positive country is now being run by an angry, hateful, hurtful man and that countless people will be hurt in the process.

I’m just sorry. I am heartbroken for what this means for your rights and for the world as a whole – because what America does will resonate with us all.

It’s just impossible to make sense of it. I just don’t understand how someone who is so readily vocal about his hatred of so many things, people and lifestyles can possibly be elected as President of the United States. I am sure Trump had positive changes he wanted to make – things that some of you can get behind – but what spoke loudest, what he shouted to the world time and time again was nothing but hate and I cannot possibly understand why anyone would want someone like that to be their President.

It’s terrifying, and my heart is with those of you who are hurt, and who will be hurt by his hatred. Sending hugs and lots of love from Canada.

Two pink lines – Finally!!

In our 6 years of trying to have a baby – I have never, ever, not even once had two pink lines on anything I’ve ever peed on – OPK, PG Test…nothing. Because of that, I have massive anxiety about any POAs of any kind – and literally spend a day psyching myself up for it  and then another day berating myself for being so silly to think I would ever get a positive. It’s a vicious cycle. I typically ovulate approximately twice a year – if that – so for the last year I have been on a tight regime of good choices, healthy foods and regular exercise (plus one million vitamins…ok, maybe not one million but a lot) to try and rectify that naturally. I have refrained from taking any form of OPK during this time, but I have taken a few PG tests which have, of course, all been negative.

So now I am back at TTC – with improved health and completely normal blood work (woot, woot). I have started charting – BBT, CM and (of course) OPKs. The only OPKs I’ve ever used before were digital, because I wanted it to be easy and clear, but this time I went for economical and ordered the lifetime supply huge box off Amaz.on of tests. The catch with these is that they are not digital – but I figured I could handle that. I started taking them 3 days ago on CD10 (because I’m not really sure when I ovulate)…and imagine my surprise and excitement when on my very first test I got this:

Image result for negative OPK

Hallelujah! Finally -for the first time in my entire life – a POSITIVE! I jumped up and down, I danced, I sang, I proclaimed myself cured of infertility because – obviously – I got a positive on an OPK, and I may or may not have kissed the test. I almost cried I was so happy to *finally* see a positive on something I peed on. It has been such a long, disheartening road and this felt like sweet, sweet redemption. All my hard work had paid off, I was ovulating! I could suddenly see my future as mother – it was so close I could taste it.

Ahhh, it was a glorious 3 minutes of celebration where I felt like a real woman, who’s body was doing womanly things like it should be…

And then, as I put it all away with an ear to ear smile on my face, I noticed this on the box:

Image result for negative OPK

Wait a minute…TWO LINES can be a negative OR a positive? What kind of test is this?!? Who made it – Hitler?? I whipped out the test again and felt my confidence, dreams, and pride shatter as I realized the test line was – OF COURSE – lighter than the control line. Meaning my “sweet redemption positive” was, actually, a big fat negative. Story.of.my.life.

Womp. Womp.

I don’t think I have ever gone so fast from cloud 9, to an inch below dirt floor. I cried for a while, and Mr. Big tried to console me but let’s be honest – there is no consoling an infertile woman who (for one quick second) thought she may not be…but then had it dashed away so easily. Like the test was saying to me: “Of course you’re infertile you fool – it’s like you forget who you are…just a big, infertile mess who will never see anything but big fat negatives.”

While I get that the two lines are because LH is usually there, and a dark line means a surge – I still think it’s unfair to have two lines on ANYTHING but a positive pregnancy test. Don’t we have enough stress? Must we add in just one more thing?

I am not sure what happened after, but I believe we need to buy new Halloween Candy.

Good Friends

When I was younger (teen to early 20s), I lived for my friends. Nothing could cure my teenage angst like a day spent doing nothing along side my besties. Even when our bodies were changing, and our emotions were roller coasters, and some of us were dealing with tragedies – a day spent watching movies and talking was what got us through.

Now, though, I’m at the age where all of my friends have small children. I was one of the first to get married, and the only without kids. While I still love spending time with my friends-who-are-now-mommies, it’s different than it used to be. Their priorities have changed (rightly so) and their lives are much different than mine.  One of the hardest parts is that when we do get together, there are so many wonderful parenting stories – but sometimes, I feel a bit sad or insecure about my infertility. That onus is on me, I know, but it happens just the same. I love my friends dearly, but it is hard on me when all we ever discuss is the one thing I cannot seem to obtain but want so desperately. Even getting together is a challenge – and something I’m starting to realize may not happen until all the kids are a bit older. I’m ok with that, I love those girls dearly and I will wait for them. But … I’m lonely and I miss my friends.

Then something interesting happened. I developed a couple friendships with four girls from work that initially became working relationships, and have since developed into a deeper friendships. All of the girls love children, but don’t have any for varying reasons: choice, health, circumstance, etc. Last week we went out for drinks after work and stayed for hours just talking about life and movies and good books. It was wonderful. I had forgotten how much life there is outside of parenting…for so long my focus has been zeroed in on how to have a baby, and having a baby, that I had forgotten there are other good things in life, too.

It was a wonderful distraction from infertility. For the first time in a long time, I did not feel like the infertile in a room full of mothers. I was just another person, enjoying a nice meal and great conversation with good friends. It was so needed. I am so glad to call these girls friends.

Do you have a mix of mommy and non-mommy friends? Do you find it more difficult or more easy to identify with one over the other?

 

 

Scared.

6 months ago, I had my first ever severe migraine with aura. I had one more after that. My doctor was alarmed at the sudden onset of them, but chalked it up to changing hormones and wrote me a prescription for pain medication.

Then, 1 month ago, a terrible head pain started. It last for four days before I went to the doctor, who – after a thorough examination – thought it was a sinus infection and armed me with antibiotics, nasal spray, antihistamines and a neti pot.The pain became less severe and more spaced out through the day – and soon it was just a constant fullness/ache that was made worse by exertion, laughing or movement/bending. When I completed the medications and it still continued without change, I began to worry. I started taking Ty.leno.l every day to get through, and crossed my fingers that if I just used the neti-pot enough, it would get better. The nature of pain changed and became a dull ache and fullness, interrupted by periods of sharp jabbing pain. Exertion, laughing or movement/bending brought on the most intense pain I have ever experienced (and I have a high pain tolerance). This has continued steadily for weeks like this.

I tried to get in to see my doctor last week, but she was away. Not wanting to go to the hospital, I just waited patiently for her to return. In that time, I experienced two episodes where I could not find the words I wanted to say. Never has my cognitive ability ever been off – and it was very scary. This could be from a multitude of things – stress not being the least – but in combination with my head pain it was terrifying.

When I called my Doctor after her vacation, she scheduled me in for an 8:30 am appt this morning – when the office doesn’t even open until 9:30 am. That should have alerted me that this may be more than a sinus infection.

I spent 1.5 hours there this morning while my Doctor and her resident asked me a hundred questions, poked, and prodded me. I had numerous actions to complete, which was comparable to a small workout. At the end they determined it was not my sinuses at all. The tests they performed on me in the office all appear normal, but they are concerned about my symptoms and my head pain – and have booked me in for an MRI brain scan.

I am no fool. I know exactly what they are looking for, and I’m scared.

 

Disappointed.

So – I wrote this post “Of Two Minds” two weeks ago and hit post. I was filled with excitement and good things (as you can tell from my words). But so much has changed.

I need to work, to attend school. The income I bring in will help pay for my Graduate school fees – so it is imperative that I work. I had worked out with my new University (we’ll call it “TUT”) that the courses I needed I could take around my work hours (I work 7-3) – which was perfect. It would take a bit longer, but it would work. This was 100% dependent on getting credit for the courses I had already taken at my previous University “LUC” (I had started my Masters after finishing my Undergrad in 2008, and then withdrew). I had been informed by both Universities that getting credit for those courses would be no problem. Fast forward to this week – after weeks of back and forth with LUC – they are unable to provide the documents I need because they don’t have them. The courses I took where special topics – and those Professors alone had copies. Those Professors are now off doing field work all over the world (Archaeologists)…and 100% inaccessible. The few we did hear from didn’t have copies, but suggested they would check their storage lockers when they returned from “______(Belize, Congo and Italy)” in the next year. For some reason LUC did not feel it was imperative to keep copies of the courses being taught that were special topics – so now TUT can’t evaluate them and give me credit for it. All of it seems to fall back on the response “As the student, you should have kept your coursework”…

To say I’m devastated would be an understatement – even though I am trying to remind myself there a million worse things that could happen. The reality is that in order to complete the courses I need to complete now – I would have to quit my job. There are too many to make vacation and lieu time cover my absences, and I couldn’t afford a sabbatical right now.

I had convinced myself that my acceptance into the program was a sign from God that I was meant to be there… but I was completely side swiped by this impossible situation that no one can find a resolution to (besides quitting my job).

I’m completely lost. When I decided to go back to school, and I got accepted, all the years of pain from infertility melted away. I have only ever had two dreams – one was to be a mother, and the second was to teach at University. I was determined that if I couldn’t be a mother then I would at least be a Professor and everything would be OK in the end. But as of right now, both of those dreams are so deflated it makes my head hurt.  I don’t know where to go or what to do with myself. I know that when one door closes, another opens – but right now that door seems so blurry I can’t even make out the lines.